GOP WRAPS UP N.H. SLUGFEST\Polls show Buchanan, Dole in dead heat going into 1st primary\of '96 campaign.
In a final burst of contentious campaigning, Republican presidential rivals battled across the state and the airwaves Monday, vying for support in New Hampshire's leadoff primary. A struggling Bob Dole was the principal target.
In a statistical dead heat in polls with commentator Pat Buchanan, the Senate majority leader wrapped up his campaign with a torchlight rally in rustic Milford.
"Tomorrow night, we're going to win New Hampshire. Then we're going to North Dakota, South Dakota, all over America," Dole told cheering supporters. North and South Dakota will hold primaries Feb. 27.
But Dole was not predicting a big win here in his third bid for the presidency. "I'll settle for one vote," he told his audience.
That's what Dole got when residents of tiny Dixville Notch and Hart's Location gave him 14 of the 39 votes cast in the Republican primary. Alexander had 13 as the two hamlets opened the balloting shortly after midnight today.
On the eve of the voting, polls of likely New Hampshire GOP voters showed Dole fighting Buchanan for first, with former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander in close pursuit and publisher Steve Forbes in fourth.
The negative attacks that made this the nastiest New Hampshire primary ever continued to the very end. Buchanan ran a new ad accusing Dole of being "a desperate man," while Alexander accused Dole of being without "one fresh idea."
Both Dole and Alexander ganged up on Buchanan for his trade-protectionist views.
"However it comes out tomorrow, I'm going to be doing very well," Alexander said as he finished his own campaign - and his 100-mile walk across the state - with a 1-1/2-mile stroll in Portsmouth to a waterfront park. "People are going to be looking at a weakened Dole. . . ."
Alexander, clad in his trademark red and black plaid work shirt, was accompanied by about 150 similarly attired supporters.
Buchanan was bidding to stay atop a wave of support from social conservatives and blue-collar Republicans that he rode to victory in Louisiana and to a surprising second-place finish in Iowa.
He predicted a strong New Hampshire finish "because we've got a message." Asked by a reporter about Alexander's "A-B-C" slogan, "Alexander Beats Clinton," Buchanan shot back: "B-C-D. Buchanan clobbers Dole."
Still haunted by his crucial loss here in 1988 to George Bush, Dole stopped short of predicting a decisive victory. But he said he expected "a very friendly verdict."
An emotional Dole, his voice wavering, told his concluding rally, "I will bring America together."
The Kansas senator picked up the endorsement of a third GOP presidential dropout, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter. "If you take the totality of his positions, I think he has the best program for America," Specter said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press
Dole earlier won the backing of California Gov. Pete Wilson and Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, both onetime rivals for the GOP nomination.
In the final full day of campaigning, the candidates had darted back and forth across the state and dominated the airwaves with live interviews and campaign commercials.
Light snow and freezing rain was forecast across most of the state for today. New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner predicted a high turnout, suggesting 76 percent of the state's registered voters would go to the polls. There was also a Democratic primary, although President Clinton had no major opposition.
All the major contenders but Dole made the rounds of morning talk shows, leading Alexander to accuse the Kansan of "ducking interviews."
"There have been more sightings of Elvis in New Hampshire than there have been of Sen. Dole," Alexander said at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter.
"'We've been out here every day," Dole responded. "I don't know what his problem is. I hope he gets over it."
Dole traveled the state by bus, offering himself as the "clear choice" for Republicans.
At a high-tech computer company in Rochester, he attacked Buchanan for protectionist trade proposals he said would put the export-reliant plant out of business.
Buchanan, for his part, opened the day with a pep rally for workers at his Manchester campaign headquarters and professed himself "a little nervous."
When a supporter predicted a big Buchanan victory, the candidate said, "If we can get something like that here, we will go all the way. They will not stop us."
In a TV interview, Buchanan faced more questions about his views on social issues such as homosexuality.
He said he wouldn't allow openly gay people to work in his administration if elected. "I don't think their lifestyle should . . . discredit the administration," Buchanan told CNN.
Forbes joined three lesser-known GOP candidates - California Rep. Bob Dornan, Illinois manufacturer Morry Taylor and conservative talk show host Alan Keyes - at a pancake-flipping contest and breakfast in Manchester.
Forbes' pancake broke up in the air and fell to the ground. "I'm not used to doing it," he explained.